The life of Quong Tart

Topic: The Australian colonies
Student activity

Why is Quong Tart’s story still significant today?

This is the student activity 1 of 1 of the Who was Quong Tart? learning activity.

Task No. 1

Quong Tart’s portrait

Look at the portrait of Quong Tart. Without looking up any other information, what do you think about this person from his portrait?

You can even listen to the soundscape the library created for this painting while you work. 

Quong Tart, ca. 1880s by unknown artist, Oil painting

Answer these questions:

  • What do you see in this painting?
  • What do you think about the person in this painting?
  • What do you wonder about the person in this painting?
Task No. 2

Moving and mining

Mei Quong Tart was born in a small town in Kanton Province, now Guangdong Province, in China. When he was only 9 years old, he left his parents and moved halfway across the world with his uncle. They came to live in a small country town called Braidwood in New South Wales and the people in his new country usually called him Quong Tart. 

Look at the map of Braidwood from 1861. Can you find any clues to tell you why Quong Tart moved to here? You can zoom in to read the labels using the State Library catalogue

Map of Braidwood gold fields
Braidwood gold fields

Quong Tart and his uncle moved to Braidwood to look for gold. 

Read the story about minority gold miners.

Answer these questions:

  • How were Chinese miners treated on the gold fields?
  • Why do you think many Chinese people left Australia and returned to China?
  • Do you think life on the gold fields would have been difficult for Quong Tart? Why?
  • What did Quong Tart do once he left the gold fields?
Task No. 3


As an adult, Quong Tart became a wealthy and successful businessman who was well-respected by many people in Sydney. He opened a series of tea houses on Sydney’s busiest streets. Can you find his tea house in the image below?

King Street, Sydney from Pitt Street, looking East

Read the advertisement for Quong Tart’s Loong Shan Tea House.

Newspaper advertisement for Loong Shan tea house


Answer these questions:

  • What food and drink did Quong Tart serve? 
  • What else did Quong Tart sell at his tea shop?
  • Where do you think these supplies come from?

This advertisement promises that the Tea House will be “fitted up with all modern improvements and conveniences regardless of expense”. Can you imagine what this might have looked like? 

Work in groups or pairs to develop a plan to decorate your classroom to look like Quong Tart's Tea House. Make sure you include:

  • Room for all of the services listed in the advertisement above
  • Description of the colours and textures of all decorations and furniture
  • Decorations that reflect Quong Tart’s pride in both Chinese and Australian cultures
  • The kinds of machines or technology you would expect to see in a tea house in the late 1800s

Use the internet to research the appearance of Quong Tart's Tea House. Does it look like the plan you created? Why or why not?

Task No. 4


Quong Tart
Margaret Tart (nee Scarlett)
Quong Tart and his family, 1900
With compliments of Mr & Mrs Quong Tart, 1892, "Gallop House", Ashfield, Sydney N.S.W.
Letter header "To Quong Tart of Sydney"
Bon voyage letter to Tart family from employees, 20 April 1894
Handwritten letter
Letter of introduction for Quong Tart from Sir Henry Parkes, 1894

Look closely at the primary sources connected to Quong Tart. What can they tell us about his life? 

Click on the symbols on the pictures and select 'View collection item' to zoom in or read more information from the State Library’s catalogue.

Using the sources below, answer these questions:

  • Who did Quong Tart marry?
  • Did Quong Tart have children?
  • Where did Quong Tart live?
  • What did other people think of Quong Tart?

Update your ‘See Think Wonder’ answers from Task 1 with the new information you have learnt from each of these sources. 

Choose one question that you still have about Quong Tart’s life and try to answer it using internet research. 

Task No. 5


Listen to the audio guide for Quong Tart’s portrait 

Make a timeline showing the significant events of Quong Tart’s life.

Choose one of these significant developments in Australia’s history and explain how it impacted Quong Tart’s life:

  • The Gold Rush
  • Multicultural migration
  • Federation
Task No. 6

Create an audio guide

Listen to the kids audio guide for the portrait of Quong Tart’s mother. 

The speaker, Donald, says that if he could speak to Quong Tart’s mother, he would ask if she missed him and if she was proud of his success. 

Choose one of the sources about Quong Tart from this learning activity and write your own script for an audio guide about it. Make sure you include:

  • An explanation of what the item is
  • What it shows about Quong Tart’s life
  • Why Quong Tart’s story is still important to people today
  • What you would say if you could speak to Quong Tart